The Debate About Web Browsers

A long time has passed since JavaScript inventor Brendan Eich’s Mozilla Firefox toppled Internet Explorer from its pinnacle as the only web browser available to web users. Since then, Chrome, Safari and a handful of other browsers have cropped up, each offering different operating systems and slightly different features, but being overall the same. However, Eich’s most recent attempt to disrupt the internet browsing industry promises to spice things up a little.

internet explorerEich just established a startup called Brave that’s devoted itself to developing a web browser that has a different take on the advertising network; it would post ads, but publishers would get a larger percent of the revenue generated by ads on their site and users wouldn’t ┬áhave to worry about the intrusive collection and dissipation of their personal information.

Brave’s proposed browser promises to disrupt the world of internet advertising and internet browsing in general, but how sure can users be that Eich is making good on his company’s assurances?

Surprisingly, Brave has opted into open sourcing their entire browser code. Privacy advocates are invited to audit the code to ensure that Brave Software isn’t collecting any data that it said it wouldn’t. Considering the rising support of cyberactivism, it’s likely that security enthusiasts will take Brave up on the offer.

As altruistic as Brave’s intentions seem to be, Eich is still likely to get some criticism for his efforts. His donation to California Prop 8 efforts cast a dark light onto his otherwise innovative reputation and besides, meddling with companies’ advertisements has proven to cause lawsuits.

“It seems to me that they are really asking for litigation at that point,” claimed Harvard Business School associate professor Benjamin G. Edelman. Edelman cited the adware Gator as an example of companies being sued for replacing ads with other ads, a foundational aspect of Brave’s software.

That said, Edelman acknowledged that Brave has a better chance at prevailing any litigation storm it provokes. Gator was installed without users’ knowledge, putting it in a very different category than Brave.

Each says that other companies that have offered client-side content modifications have emerged from legal battles victorious. “There’s going to be some uncertainty up front because we’re doing something radical,” he said. “But we’re ready to fight for this because it’s an important battle.”

annoying banner adsAs CEO of the online publishers association Digital Content Next, Jason Kint’s enthusiasm about the project is a good sign for Brave: “I think there’s going to be more and more of these sorts of companies. It’s good, the market chasing the market.”

Some even believe that Brave’s advertising model might not be radical enough. Christ Tuff is the director of business development at advertising agency 22squared. He claims that┬ámany of the advertising norms in the internet age aren’t even effective in the first place. For example, many advertising firms have come to believe that people are so used to seeing ads that they’ve developed “banner blindness.”

“Display advertising is a horrible format for mobile,” he said. “Fifty percent of mobile clicks are done by mistake.”

Tuff believes that the major reason people hate ads is because they’re annoying and irrelevant, and that ads that are better suited to people’s real interests could be seen as actually useful. The attempt to plant relevant advertisements is known as “native advertising.”

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